Magazine article American Libraries

The Golden Rule of Supervision. (Will's World)

Magazine article American Libraries

The Golden Rule of Supervision. (Will's World)

Article excerpt

Complaining about bad bosses is almost as popular among library staffers as complaining about problem patrons. A bad boss is the scourge of the earth who can ruin not only your whole day but also your entire life. You could have Mother Theresa as your library director, but it wouldn't do you any good if your direct supervisor is Attila the Hun. The relationship with your boss is probably more critical to your happiness and sense of well-being than the relationship with your spouse. Studies show that the average worker spends more time at work than at home. They also show that professional people tend to derive personal identity from their careers rather than from their private lives.

As much as we like to think otherwise, the truth is that we are what we do for a living. We live to work, not vice-versa. That's why there is so much stress and tension at work--an example is the rash of homicides by postal employees in the 1980s.

But here's the real killer--bad bosses are not limited to the post office. The sad fact is that many library bosses are also dysfunctional to one degree or another. You're lucky if your boss is simply neurotic as opposed to psychotic. In library school we are trained with professional skills--reference, cataloging, computer engineering, and information science--not supervisory skills. There is the occasional management course, but that tends to be one of those trendy management flavor-of-the-year, big-picture courses. The information you get is more helpful to running a multinational corporation than supervising six or seven librarians or library clerks. I'm convinced that life is not a big-picture proposition. You are born and you die, and in between you struggle mightily to make sense of it all. I maintain that the making sense of it all takes place in the little venues of life--the workplace cubicle, the staff lounge lunch table, and the corner booth at the tavern during happy hour.

Why is happy hour such a time-honored library tradition, and why do so many people say that the most productive part of professional conferences takes place in the hotel cocktail lounge? …

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